Sprawling Rambles & Rambling Sprawls

So I’m only updating because Tim Minchin said he liked my blog, yeah? He has rad hair.

(Actually I’m updating because I promised Mobile Fun that I’d review a USB phone charger, and because it’s… well, it’s been a while)

Exciting updates! What the hell have I been up to?!

Well. Mostly I have been putting photographs of politicians next to trains from Thomas the Tank Engine and then laughing a lot?


So yeah, I’ve been doing a lot of that.  Too much, one might say.  But also! I have done normal things that proper people do, too. Proper people who don’t get looked at as though they are mental.

Hay Festival

My first time (shocking really, as I’m next to the Welsh border and it’s only an hour away). I’ve been to Hay-on-Wye before obviously, there were books, I had some fudge.

I ADORED it. The same sort of intellectually-trascendent revelation that I had when I first went to Latitude. Wonderful, to hear snippets of exciting conversation everywhere you went, to know you could happily interject without inevitably hating the strangers you ended up talking to.  I did the Philosophy festival on the Saturday and the Literature festival on the Sunday (I span academia, yo).  I’m not going to rave too much, but it was stunning.

Also, I got a virtually self-spoofing Guardian tote bag that is immune to parody in its ridiculousness. It is totez awesome:

Paper? Tick! Sunshine? Tick! Pimms? Tick!

Highlights inc!

  • “Copyright, Copyleft & Artistic Ownership in the Digital Age”; brill stuff on a thorny issue. Feargal Sharkey was a really engaging & compelling speaker, even though I disagreed with much of what he said.  Still, at least everyone seems to be agreed that reform is needed.
  • Johann Hari being adorbs.
  • More Nick Clegg stalking (I know, I’m a girl possessed). He was lovely & witty & self-deprecating as ever (“I co-authored a book on this – well, it wasn’t really a book. More of a pamphlet. I just said it was a book because I thought this is a literary festival and it would sound grand. It was a leaflet, really.”)
  • Stephen Fry being booked to speak for an hour and overrunning for an hour in typically verbose Stephen-fashion (“Incidentally, WHEN is the Alejandro video coming out?! It is just driving me MAD!”)
  • All the speakers being given sunflowers. Glorious!

Also, Bonnie Greer was literally everywhere we went. Being fierce.

Minor quibble: I was surprised how un-foodie it was; only one vegetarian option on site, and barely any food on site at all. I was expecting, you know, grilled halloumi and houmous and venison burgers.

I also spent far too much of the weekend sitting in my car trying to charge my phone just so that I could tweet. Nightmare. #firstworldproblems

Here’s some satire, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Oh, my achey-breaky Lib Dem heart.


I also went to Latitude! I wasn’t supposed to, it was sold out and I was very sad, but then I managed to come by a spare VIP ticket about 3 days before for less then face value.  Huzzah.

An excellent time, but unfortunately I did keep falling asleep and missing things.  Most noteably & heart-wrenchingly, Karaoke Circus & Crystal Castles, though they clashed anyway.

Highlights inc!

  • Quite a lot of Robin Ince happened. Robin Ince is everywhere. He is the king of middle-class, left-wing festivals. And there were cushions on the floor of the Literary Arena! Score.
  • The Actor Kevin Eldon. Obviously.
  • Q&A session with Chris Morris.
  • Forest! Sheep! Lake! Cocktails! All the usual, really.
  • I Blame Coco played! She is the fittest thing I have ever seen?
FAO Coco, how are you real?

My favourite bit was when Colin & Mary & I were having a discussion about something wanky like “the transient nature of the campsite” and “festivals as liminal zones” (Colin & I basically talk in English Lit. essay titles once we get going, it is really irritating for anyone near us); Colin asked whether either of us ever imagined that each tent was a word and strung them together across the campsite to make sentences.  No, I said, shaking my head, “But are they present tents or past tents?”

I am literally the funniest person in the world.



Perks of the job. Work very kindly let me take along this emergency charger for my phone, so that I didn’t have to spend half the festival sitting in the car like I did at Hay.  I’m no tech-blogger really, so you don’t get an unboxing video I’m afraid.  Here’s a picture of it though:

I actually really dig it and have been using it loads.  It works well as a charger for my G1 but comes with loads of other tips so you could easily use it as an iPhone 4 charger or an iPad charger etc – not sure how long it’d take to charge an iPad though, I’ll have to borrow m’ boss’ one for a go.

The unit itself is quite sleek and feels/looks well-made, with a nice matt finish.  It seems to hold just enough power for me to charge my phone completely about 1.5 times, perhaps 2 at the most, so I did still end up sitting in my car again occasionally, but that’s more the G1’s fault for absolutely gobbling up battery.

I like it! I shall bequeath it THREE AND A HALF OUT OF FIVE STARS.

If that sounds low, it’s just because I’m stingy. I would only give myself three and a half out of five stars as a person, too.  And I’m really into me.

Birmingham SiTP

I went to it, my second. Everyone very friendly and welcoming, and remembered who I was though I’d missed a couple of sessions 🙂

Anyway, lovely lovely Prof Chris French (wot I wrote a piece on sleep paralysis for last year) gave us a talk, on the latter, and also on anomalous psychology and pareidolia and all that malarky that always makes me wish I’d carried on with Psych after A Level.  I got a little drunk on toffee cider.

Escorted through the Peer’s Entrance

Not a euphemism. Or at least, it wasn’t until all my rt. Hon. friends the Loliticians got their grubby little hands on it.

I had a tour round Parliament! It was amazing!

Lord Faulkner kindly took me round and he properly knew his stuff.  Here are some interesting facts that he told me about:

Behind the Speakers chair is a green bag which is the petitions bag, where all the petitions sent in end up. Lord F. said that in the olden days when people would ask “Did you get my petition?”, the Speaker would say “It’s in the bag”, and that’s the origin of the phrase “It’s in the bag”.  I squealed quite loudly when he told me this.

In front of both of the benches there are two red lines, just over two sword lengths apart, which you aren’t allowed to step over when you’re talking to ensure that you don’t fight the opposition; this is the origins of the phrase “toeing the line”.

He also explained the tradition behind Black Rod, the guy who comes with the Queen for the State Opening of Parliament. This one time! Charles I ran in demanding to see 5 MPs who he was angry with and wanted to punish, but the MPs had already legged it. The Speaker refused to tell the King where they were and said that he was under the rules of the Commons, not the rules of the King, and then they ejected Charles I from the Commons.  Hero!  So now, royals are only allowed into the Commons by invite, and when they come they have to have the door slammed shut ceremonially in their faces and then Black Rod raps on the door with his rod to be let in.

It was a bit empty as it was the last day of term before all the politicians wander off to the beach with their buckets & spades.  I watched the Lords doing a vote, and I went in the Commons chamber and had a wander around and looked at the front benches and the dispatch boxes, and I went on the Terrace Bar, and I went in the Robing Room where the Queen gets dressed before State Opening of Parliament.  I’d always envisaged it as a large walk-in wardrobe but it is in fact an entire room with quite a lot of paintings in it.

Not many Lords.

Doctor Who at the Proms


Matt Smith! Karen Gillan! Arther Darville! Daleks! Weeping Angels!

They played Gallifrey: My Childhood, My Home along with a video of all of the Doctor’s regenerations, and we all applauded each Doctor as they passed.  Very poignant and lovely, so obviously I was sobbing my face off.

Albert Mo'Fo'ing Hall

I also went to see The Knife’s opera based around The Origin of Species, Tomorrow in a Year, but I won’t go into it here as it wasn’t all that.  A nice concept, moderately executed.  My advice is to just stay at home and listen to the album, which is great.  Cool dry ice, though.


The BBC modern-day adaptation of Sherlock Holmes, by Steven Moffat (Doctor Who) & Mark Gatiss (League of Gentleman) started airing a fortnight ago. Be still my heart.



They’ve even had a sort of hamfisted go at the extended media/ ARG side of things, with character blogs (John, Sherlock, Molly) and puzzles to crack, which is sort of endearing.  And gives us lots of extra squee-worthy details like SHERLOCK AND JOHN HAD A JAMES BOND MARATHON TOGETHER, SHERLOCK AND JOHN RAN OUT OF MILK THIS ONE TIME AND SHERLOCK HAD TO ASK JOHN TO GET SOME, SHERLOCK AND JOHN ARE IN LOVE AND DEFINITELY GOING TO GET MARRIED, et cetera.

Unfortunately it’s only a three-parter. The first episode was stunning, absolutely utterly & inexorably perfect.  The second, I thought was a little weak (also not slashy enough?! hello?!).  But the second of a trilogy is always the worst, TRUFAX, so I have high-hopes for next week’s finale.  And for us getting a full series after that, please?

I would be this excited.

PS. Dear Mr Prime Minister, plz do not take our BBC.


Catch-up Blog: Cleggmania, Timey-Wimey Stuff & The Whedonverse

So, a catch up.

General Election 2010

It’s in two days. IT IS IN TWO DAYS. This has been the most exciting election of my young life, and whether that’s because it’s geniunely been exciting or just because it’s the first one where I’ve considered myself informed and involved to any degree, I couldn’t say.  The way I engage with politics has been completely altered (a sceptic would say “dictated”) by twitter, The Guardian CiF and (to a lesser extent) the enforced 3 hours of commuting time sat in the car listening to Radio 4.  *Cough*middle-class-liberal*coughcough*.  Anyway, it’s been really exciting.  Off the back of the first televised election there was a real sense of potential for change, with the rise of so-called “Cleggmania”, and also a (even more exciting) feeling that people were getting very fed up of spin and wouldn’t let the media (*cough* Rupert Murdoch*cough*) dictate what they were going to do.  I have to say, my excitement has worn off now; it’s been replaced by a sense of rising dread now that the election proper is looming and it’s still looking quite likely that we’ll be ushering in David Cameron as our new leader.  Oh well, it was fun while it lasted!

Now, I have no idea whether the Lib Dems could actually run the country, should they get into power, and I hope that they would be able to, but most importantly the increased significance of the third party shows a movement away from the two-party politics that we’ve been stuck with.  Any movement towards people voting for what they actually believe in rather than as a protest or a tactical vote is a good thing as far as I can see.

Presumably, whatever party gets into power next will be so unpopular because of all the cuts they’ll inevitably have to make that they’ll then be absolutely abhorred and drop out of favour for years afterwards.  So possibly the tories getting in right now wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

In terms of a hung parliament, I’m for it.  I think it would be interesting.  And chaotic.  (“And I am interested in chaos” – points for quote naming!) At best, it could be fairer; at worst, it would be an awful disaster that would hopefully lead to the political reform that we do desperately need.  The best thing about the high probability of a hung parliament is that it’s given us all the chance to make what is literally the most elegant joke ever: “Red and blue and yellow mixed together just makes Brown”.  OH MY GOD it is perfect.  It’s almost like it was all prearranged.


At the weekend I met the Cleggmeister in a very lovely little pub in Malvern called The Nags Head.  I’m not sure what possessed me; I just heard that he was close-by, I was at a loose end waiting for Doctor Who to come on and there was a possibility of a pint of real ale.  NOT EVEN FAKE ALE.  So I drove over; it was a beautiful sunny day and the Malverns were looking stunning.  The pub was rammed, mostly with Lib Dem supporters, but also some Conservative hecklers.  It was all very exciting, standing around with my pint with hundreds of people and waiting.  And waiting.  And then… the enormous yellow Battle Bus pulling up.  A cheer!  And then, waiting.  The sense of apprehension was palpable.  Everyone was silent, staring at the door of the bus.  It opened! A cheer.  Nothing happened.  The door shut again.

It was like waiting for a band to come on at the sort of gig I went to when I was 17.  I was half expecting dry ice and for Nick Clegg to ascend out of a hole in the top of a bus with lasers surrounding him.  But no; he walked out of the door eventually, small and mousy and unassuming.  A small child started jumping up and down next to me yelling “Mummy! Mummy! Nick’s here!”.  People waved their “I AGREE WITH NICK” placards.  I regretted not wearing more yellow.  Or less yellow, perhaps.  I began to wonder whether it looked like I’d purposefully dyed my hair orange to show I was a supporter.  I glanced surreptitiously at the rest of the crowd to see if anyone was looking at my hair funny.  They weren’t.  The jumping child knocked a glass over and the entire crowd went “OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO”.  He did a speech (Nick, not the child).  I couldn’t hear it.  A man heckled him.  He handled him firmly but calmly.  He greeted people.  He shook my hand.  I swooned.  My little sister sent me a text: “Tell him I’m voting 4 him because he’s a babe”.  He went inside.  We all crammed inside after him.  He handled a pint masterfully.  He shook another girl’s hand; she swooned against a wall and whimpered, “Oh my God! He shook my hand! I’m never washing it again!”.  A lady forced him to kiss a baby’s face.  He cringed.

Doctor Who

We’re five episodes in, so that’s long enough to give my verdict.  Matt is fabulous, and Amy is gorgeous, though I haven’t quite got my head around her properly yet.  Tonally it’s very different from the wooby-angst of RTD’s era, which it does need to be; much more action and clever plotting than drama and despair and love.  On the other hand, whilst I love the general concept of Doctor Who, and the rebel, pacifist, almost anarchist character of the Doctor himself, it was exactly that angst of the RTD-era and of David’s doctor that hooked me, and the intense interpersonal relationships between him and the characters around him.  I feel that’s lacking now (though I know that it’s an omission many will be very happy about), and the closeness of the relationships he does have seems sidestepped a little.  His and Amy’s relationship, in particular, seems to have a faux-closeness about it, thrown together in the last 10 minutes of The Beast Below.  But I suspect this is pretty par for the course with the Moff (who I do adore in all other senses, for his complexity and his knowledge of childhood fears, the eery and the uncanny), who has created close relationships with the Doctor before with no pre-amble or build-up (Madame de Pompadour, River herself).  I don’t know if I trust him to write the type of blossoming, close relationship that RTD was so good at.  But we shall see!  I adore the humour in it, and the horror, and the fairytale element (even if they’re hammering it in a little hard).  I’m very excited about the timey-wimey-ness of it, the probable timeline-skewing and the almost-definite Future!Doc in the forest (and elsewhere), which is so beautifully reminiscent of Hermione with the timeturner in Prizoner of Azkaban <33
RTD always used the time travel business as a plot device, simply in order to get the Doctor to where he needed to be in order to occur, rather than something important in its own right, and it’s about time that was altered (What else is going to be altered?  We shall find out!)

In VERY EXCITING AND RELATED NEWS, I somehow managed to get my hands on three tickets to the Doctor Who Prom today. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH.  I thought it had sold out and then it hadn’t and then then there was this whole THING and now there are tickets.  I have been on a total spazhigh for half of the day.  I’m just hoping that by the time it happens I have more of a connection to Murray Gold’s score; I’ve been enjoying it, of course, but there’s nothing yet that makes me catch my breath like “The Doctor’s Theme” always does, or burst into tears immediately like “The Rueful Fate of Donna Noble” or “Gallifrey: Our Childhood, Our Home”.  Still!  ERM I WILL SEE MATT SMITH AND KAREN GILLAN ACTUALLY IN FRONT OF ME, ACTUALLY? *SQUEE*

Buffy Season 8/ General Joss Whedon fangirling (POSSIBLE SPOILERZ)

I AM READING BUFFY SEASON 8 AND IT IS AMAZING.  And I’m not a comics fan, but I’ve always wanted to be, and I think this just might be my in.  I can’t quite accept it as canon – Dawn is a giant?!  Buffy is a lesbian?!  Basically EVERYONE can fly?! – but it’s still an absolute funtimes ROMP.  Like fanfic on crack, but with illustrations.  AND THE DOCTOR AND ROSE HAVE A CAMEO <33 And so meta!  I mean, everyone seems to be sort of aware that they’re in a comic, and familiar with its forms and layout etc.  Somehow.  Is this normal for comics?  I kind of… suspect that it is, and perhaps that is why people bum them so much.  If anyone has any recommendations of where to go next with this, let me know.

Other related Joss points: EVERYONE SHOULD WATCH DR HORRIBLE’S SINGALONG BLOG.  It’s sort of dissatisfying and weak-scripted initially, but I found it was a total grower and now I adore it.  Especially the soundtrack.  And the fact that the commentary is another musical on top of it.  I love you Joss!  I am glad to be existing in a post-Buffy landscape!  I am looking forward to your episode of Glee and also the Avengers Movie!


Some sad news at the weekend.  We’ve been bottle-feeding a couple of lambs that had been rejected by their mums at the farm up the road, Bounder and Greg, for a couple of weeks.  Greg has a limp, much like his misanthrope of a namesake.  While most of the lambs we have stay up in the field with their mums, the bottle-reared ones live down in the garden and wander in out of the kitchen occasionally, thinking that they’re people.  Bounder and Greg were always gambolling around the garden or staring at the goat kids through the orchard fence.  On Sunday morning I was woken by distressed bleating, which I grumpily presumed was the lambs thirstin’ for a drink.  It was only when I got up later that I found out that Bounder had died in the night and the bleating was Greg crying over him 😦 I’m not as hardened to “farm” life as the rest of my family, so it’s made me actually quite upset.  I mostly just feel very sorry for Greg, who’s alone now without Bounder to look after him, and is still bleat-crying two days later.  The ewes won’t have anything to do with him and nor will the goats so he just wanders around the yard looking lost.  Hopefully we’ll get another bottle-fed lamb soon to be his friend, or he’ll manage to make friends with the sheep up the field.


I still can’t abide it.  I do not get the place.  It is incoherent.  Every other city (let alone the second biggest IN THE COUNTRY) has at least made an effort to make the bit of it you see first when alighting from the train look nice.  Not so with Birmingham!  Add to that that it is completely lacking in scene, ambience or atmosphere, and what is the actual point?  Nevertheless, I am trying to engage and get a handle on it, and I’ve found a couple of nights/ promoters that I want to go to/ get involved in, mostly namely Colour, who put on left-field gigs and seem to vaguely be fanboys for Forest in Sound back in Leeds (no bad thing), and Atta Girl, who were – of course – inspired to start up by Suck My Left One.  So, there is certainly potential, once you get past all the drudgery and horror.  And I do like the tram system.